Money-saving tips for college students
Welcome to college, students! Whether you're returning as an upperclassman or just getting started as a freshman, it's never too early or late to start making wise decisions when it comes to your money. Limiting your spending and keeping your debt at bay will create positive and powerful effects, ones that last much longer than your four years on campus. Before you get too entrenched in academics, extracurriculars, and the social scene, take a few moments to read our tips below on saving money while in college. Put them into practice, and you'll set yourself up for a smart financial future.
Set a budget
Setting and following a budget isn't fun, but it works. First, figure out how much money you'll have each month based on the savings you intend to spend during the year and any monthly income you'll receive from a part-time job or generous parents. Then decide how you'll spend that money by allocating it to certain costs, like food, school supplies, and public transit. Stick to the budget as best you can to avoid overspending or getting yourself into debt.
Live like a student
You're a college student. You're likely not working, except, perhaps, in a part-time job on or off campus. In any case, you don't have much income. So live like it. Eat cheaply, be frugal, reuse what you can, and keep your wallet closed. You'll have plenty of years (when you're working full time) to eat out, enjoy cable, buy a coffee every day, and take taxis. In the meantime, spend as little as you can to minimize debt and stretch your small income. Live like a student now so you can live like a working adult when you actually are one.
Do (and take) everything you can for free
College campuses are full of opportunities to take part in activities at no charge – ones that would otherwise cost you a few bucks – and freebies are aplenty. Take advantage of it. Whether a club you're interested in is offering complimentary dinner next week, or the student center is showing a free movie on Friday, make sure you're there. Take a pen when the local bank is handing them out in fistfuls, and grab a water bottle from the gym's promotional table. Anything you need that you receive free of charge frees up some room in your budget.
Use your Student ID to your advantage
Plenty of businesses offer discounts to students, so bring your Student ID every time you shop. From movie theatres and museums, to fast food stops like Burger King and Subway, to retailers like H&M and Goodwill, you'll be paying a lot less at many places you frequent. Not sure if one of your favorite spots offers a discount? Just ask.
Don't live on credit
Using a credit card for expenses is okay – as long as you pay off the balance in full each month. Otherwise, avoid credit cards as much as possible. Charging an expense that you can't repay at the end of the month will accrue interest, which means that extra latte or dinner out is going to end up costing you twice as much as the price you were charged. Most college students with credit cards believe they'll pay off each month's balance, but a recent Fidelity survey of students from the class of 2013 found that these students graduated from college with an average of $3,000 in credit card debt. So make sure you actually DO keep up with that credit card bill – in full.
Got any other great ideas about how to save money while in college? We'd love to hear them. Post them in the comment section below.
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